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December 15, 2021
Have you ever hit a drive that seemed to jump off the clubface hotter than usual even though it didn’t feel like you swung any faster? Did you feel pleasure as you walked to your ball and found it well beyond your average distance? What happened? Very simply, four things happened. With a well-timed swing a golfer can:
Five human variables influence clubhead speed:
1. Physical strength
2. Body flexibility
3. Swing technique
4. Leverage (body lever lengths, such as the length of the left arm)
5. Neuromuscular coordination.
Power sources used in the delivery of the golf club come from a combination of sequential movements (lateral, rotational, and vertical) which help the golfer create applied force to the golf ball.
Strength (variable 1) can have an important influence on distance. It is the primary reason golf courses have different tee markers for men and women. However, more often than we think, we see a muscular male golfer get out driven by a smaller junior golfer because of variables other than strength affect how far a ball is hit. In the example cited above, the male may possess superior strength, but may have limited body flexibility (variable 2) coupled with poor swing technique (variable 3).
Golfers with longer body levers (such as longer arms) generate more leverage (variable 4) and have the potential for more incredible clubhead speed than golfers of equal strength but shorter levers. This is why players are encouraged to have an extended lead arm at the moment of impact (although extended does not mean locked straight because locking would cause tension, which inhibits speed). The length of the arms is an inherited attribute and cannot change. Therefore, a player can buy a longer club but not a more extended arm.
Neuromuscular coordination (variable 5) is related to the body’s ability to use muscles at the right time and with the correct force. This trait is strongly influenced by heredity. Students come to the lesson tee with specific inborn talents and some deficiencies beyond the teacher’s control.
Therefore, teachers have to concentrate on variables they can influence. For example, strength and flexibility can be enhanced through exercise and training, and technique can also be improved, resulting in more clubhead speed and greater distance.
Speed without contact leaves the ball sitting on the tee or ground, so speed needs a partner with the center-face or square hit. A clubhead speed of 100 M.P.H. with a square hit produces a drive of approximately 250 yards in carrying. Given the same speed with an off-center or non- square hit, the shot does not travel as far. Off-center impacts produce glancing blows that transfer less energy to the golf ball.
The angle of approach of the club head to the ball also affects the distance a ball travels. With all other variables the same, a steeper approach angle than desired creates more backspin, more lift, and therefore less distance. Less energy is transmitted to the ball as the angle of approach deviates from the arc that produces the optimal launch trajectory for maximum distance.
The dynamic loft at impact will influence the distance a ball travels. Less dynamic loft on the club at impact will produce a lower spin rate and a lower trajectory (assuming all other factors, including the angle of approach, are consistent). Typically, irons will have about four degrees of static loft gap between clubs. For example, a 6-iron might have 28 degrees of static loft and a 7- iron, 32 degrees of static loft. A club’s static loft will influence the dynamic loft at impact and give the player the ability to stagger distance intervals to control the course. However, players deliver the club to impact in different ways. For example, one player may de-loft a middle iron’s static loft four degrees at impact while another may add two degrees of loft at impact. Using the same iron and club speed and centeredness, these players may differ in their carry distance by 25 yards. It is worth noting that lower dynamic loft at impact does not always produce longer shots. For example, a player may be using a hybrid with 21 degrees of dynamic loft at impact, whereas a higher lofted club with 24 degrees of dynamic loft at impact will produce a more extended shot because the ball stays in the air longer and carries a greater distance.
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